This week we’re taking a look at a Modern classic that got some updates from Ixalan. As someone who doesn’t often play traditional aggro decks, Merfolk is a little outside my wheelhouse. As someone who loves playing with new cards in Modern, however, this week, Merfolk is exactly in my wheelhouse.
Once we knew Merfolk would be one of the tribes of Ixalan, we knew that the age old Modern archetype was due for some updates, and the set delivered some gems. Heck, we even have a Kira-esque Merfolk in the form of Kopala, Warden of Waves.
While last weekend Alan Cummins managed to take U/G to a 9th place finish at the Modern Open, instead we’re taking a look at a version piloted to a 5-0 finish by Magic Online user JanG44.
There are definitely differences between this version and some of the other successful versions out there. The most notable I think is the exclusion of Cursecatcher. Also worth noting that the only spells in your deck are 4 Spreading Seas and 4 Aether Vial, which is pretty interesting. No Spell Pierce or Dismember to be found here. With the absence of Cursecatcher that means that most of your opponent’s spells are going to resolve. And by “most” I mean “all.”
No matter. That shouldn’t deter you. The lack of spells in the deck, and 4 of them being colorless, gives you a strong incentive to add 3 Cavern of Souls to the deck. The only card it can’t cast is Spreading Seas and the deck’s other unique inclusion, Phantasmal Image. Though it is worth keeping in mind the additional sideboard options you’d be unable to cast off of Cavern, so I understand the limit of 3.
Enough chatting about the individual choices—let’s see how we do!
Holy smokes did this deck perform. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if it was the addition of green, as I rarely saw Kumena’s Speaker, and Merfolk Branchwalker, while powerful, never felt it was the one card pushing me to victory. It did do a decent Silvergill Adept impression. One of my favorite parts of this version of the deck is that the majority of the creatures cost 2 mana, so it’s easy to keep your Aether Vial on 2 for the duration of the game.
Kopala, Warden of Waves, while not as protective as Kira, does feel like a solid replacement, especially considering it can be cast off Cavern of Souls and gets pumped by other Merfolk lords. That last part is extremely relevant, as you can imagine.
I don’t feel like I have much to add to this list, after playing it. I don’t know if the green additions are necessary, but I also don’t think the sacrifice is great enough to worry about it. If you think Merfolk needs a 1-mana 2/2 so you can start attacking for 3 on turn two, then by all means, toss that green in there! While I mentioned that Merfolk Branchwalker didn’t feel overpowered, it did feel solid, especially when you’re only running 19 lands. It often nabbed a vital third land, or let me toss a card I didn’t want (late-game Aether Vial, I’m looking at you) into the grumper.
Green also gives you enchantment and artifact destruction in the sideboard, if you’re looking for that, and it bring Collected Company into the discussion. While I’m not sure where I stand on that debate, it’s nice to have the option available. My primary concern, however, would be simply getting to 4 mana!
Either way, this deck was great and whether or not that had to do with the addition of green, Merfolk seemed way more powerful than I had given it credit for.